Roger Sherman Offers a Connecticut Compromise

The Connecticut compromise helped make the summer of 1787 a successful one. As the 1787 Constitutional Convention moved into July, it was at a stall, trying to assess whether to create a legislature in which each state had the same number of votes, or whether larger states should have more votes and smaller states have fewer votes.

Virginia, the most heavily populated of the colonies, not surprisingly favored votes weighted by population. New Jerseyans, and other smaller colonies, preferred a one-state, one-vote approach.

Roger Sherman, 1868, by Ralph Earl

Roger Sherman, 1868, by Ralph Earlecic

Deadlocked, the congress appointed a committee to come up with a plan during a short recess, and on July 3rd Connecticut’s Roger Sherman is credited with putting forward the “Connecticut compromise,” which survives to this day.

The idea, familiar to any schoolchild today, was that one arm of the legislature, the lower house, should have a makeup proportionate to each state’s size, while each state would have equal representation in the upper house.

The idea won the support of Pennsylvania’s Benjamin Franklin, though he wanted all votes that dealt with spending money carried out on a proportional basis. The compromise would be put to the entire convention on July 16, and approved by a single vote — without Franklin’s proposed wrinkle.

Sherman has the distinction of being the only person to sign all four great documents of the American Revolution: the Continental Association of 1774, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution of the United States.

He would go on to represent Connecticut in in both of the houses he helped create, the House of Representatives and the Senate, which he was a member of at the time of his death in 1793.

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